Sunday, September 03, 2006

Puppet Theatre: Paperhand Puppet Intervention's As the Crow Flies: Tales from Four Directions

A friend of mine and I went to see the last event of the RadiCackaLacky Puppetry Convergence, a family-oriented outdoor performance by Paperhand Puppet Intervention called As the Crow Flies: Tales From Four Directions. The same friend, my Dad, and my wife, went to their production last year, Garden of the Wild. It consisted of fabulous puppetry in four stories:

  1. "Man and Machine - The Story of John Henry". The legendary working class man from the late 1800s competes and soundly defeats machinery. "This tale of Man vs. Machine during the era of Industrialization is one that is still relevant ... story of people standing up against hardship ... imposed on them in the name of progress & profit". It was a delight to see, especially the industry of the large main puppet.
  2. "King of Fools". "Every culture has ... tales of fools & tricksters." Inspired by English stories of "wise men of Gotham", Jewish Eastern European stories of "the people of Chelm", and Russian Pushkin's "The Golden Cockerel", this was fairly comical and probably my favorite piece.
  3. "Seeing with New Eyes". A huge puppet of the historical Gautama Buddha witnesses monsters and temptations as he meditates on a river bank. Heart lit up to hilight his newly found enlightenment, he floats up the stone stairs of the outdoor theatre to applause, with a retinue of lovingly curious children following him. I love how Paperhand times their shows, if this and last year are indicative. Like last year, this piece ended around nightfall, maximizing the effect of the puppet's lit heart.
  4. "The Librarian of Basra". This tells the true story, based on Jeannette Winter's book The Librarian of Basra, of Alia Muhammad Baker. As Head Librarian of Iraq's Central Library in Basra, he struggles to save the tens of thousands of books from impending war. Like last year, this piece was done as a shadowbox lit from behind.

Paperhand is a delight to see, and the setting lends itself well to enjoying while picnicking or just sitting under the open sky at the Forest Theatre. They tend to have a populist, progressive message that is entertaining for all ages and thought-provoking at different levels for different people. I enjoyed last year's Garden of the Wild even more than As the Crow Flies: Tales From Four Directions but would gladly see either again. What will they produce next year?!


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